Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Testing, testing: Cream of Pumpkin Soup

In the mid-1990's, new in town and looking for ways to connect with my community and other women, I joined The Saturday Club of Wayne, PA.  A women's philanthropic and social organization. I was an active member for several years, taking on several leadership positions, increasing my awareness of, and donating my time to, several local charities, and making lasting friendships.  To learn more about the club, check out the website: www.saturdayclub.org/

One of the enduring endeavors of the club has been their incredibly popular series of cookbooks. In 1982 Main Line Classics was published -- despite its age, and the radical way food and eating have changed since then, I still reach for this book time and again.  In 1996, Main Line Classics II: Cooking Up a Little History was published. Member recipes were mixed in with line drawings and a history of Main Line Philadelphia. As a club member at the time, I contributed recipes and tested recipes (dishwasher fish, anyone?), and after publication delivered cases of books all over town, and sat at many a gift show spreading the good word.  Main Line Entertains was published in 2005, offering an array of recipes perfect for entertaining and for the first time, photographs.

Income from these cookbooks, as well as other fundraising efforts, have allowed the Saturday Club to maintain its historic building in Wayne as well as donate almost $1 million dollars to local charities over the past two decades. That's a lot of good work and a lot of good cookin'!

The current board of directors have decided to do it all again. So, now it is time to contribute and test a few recipes that might eventually make it into the Saturday Club's fourth cookbook: Eat Love Philadelphia.

The club Book Group hosted a recipe tasting at this month's meeting. I am a dedicated book group member, so even though I could not be there I asked for a recipe to test in my On the Water Galley.

Like a good tester, I made the recipe to a "T". This was hard for me -- I like to tweak as I go -- but I resisted.  I did take notes and for my second round I put a few of my own touches on the recipe - reducing the fat content and bumping up the flavor with an optional garnish.

Without further ado, just in time for soup weather, and Thanksgiving:

Cream of Pumpkin Soup

1 C finely chopped onion
1 T butter
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground ginger
1/8 t ground black pepper
1/2 t salt
2 14.5 oz cans of low sodium chicken broth (or one 32 oz box)
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 C heavy cream

Optional Garnish:
Crumbled Goat Cheese, or
Spiced Pepitas (recipe below)

Oops, when I took this picture I thought I needed two cans of Pumpkin. Nope, just one.

Melt butter on medium/high heat in large sauce pan. 

Add onions, cook until tender. Add salt, cinnamon, ginger and pepper, fully coating the onions and cook about 30-60 seconds until the aromas open up. 

Add 1/2 the chicken broth, stirring up all the bits of spice that may have stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Puree onions and stock with an immersion blender*, or in a blender or food processor. Note: let the mixture cool a bit before placing in blender or processor.

*Using an immersion blender makes this a one pot soup and clean up a snap.

If necessary , return broth to pan. 

Add remaining broth and pumpkin, stir to fully incorporate pumpkin. Return to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Do not taste the soup just after adding the pumpkin -- it will be aggressively squash-y and not very tasty. It needs time to mellow, and it needs the next step:

Add heavy cream, and heat through but do not boil.

Ladle into bowls, add optional garnish, or simply enjoy as is!

Spiced Pepitas (aka raw pumpkin seeds)

1 C raw pepitas
1 T coconut or olive oil
1/2 t chile powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t cumin
1/4 garlic powder
1/4 t ground pepper
1/4 t salt

Melt oil in saute pan, add pepitas, then spices. Stir to coat.
Cook over low heat until the seeds just begin to brown.
Also delicious in salads or by the handful.
Adjust seasonings to taste.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Make Your Own Boursin Cheese

When I first went to college I was NOT a cheese eater. Okay, maybe a slice of American Cheese (yellow only -- at that point I had never even seen white American cheese), but that was it. Ah, but the mid-70's were rife with Wine and Cheese parties, even among the college crowd striving for sophistication. What was a girl to do? Enter Boursin Cheese (pronounced boor-SAHN)

 According to Food.com: Boursin is a modern, creamy, rind-less fresh cow's milk cheese of cylindrical shape with added garlic and herbs or black pepper. The cheese was created by Francois Boursin in 1957. It has a rich, sweet flavor with a hint of acidity. This cheese is sold in an corrugated-foil wrapper and is used as a table cheese for spreading and baking. 

Boursin became a staple in my dorm room fridge. Served with Triscuits or Wheat Thins, it was my gateway drug. I lost track of it over the years as my taste in cheese grew from Boursin to Brie to Blue. The stinkier the better is my cheese preference now, and yet at times there is still a place for a creamy, herb-y addition to the cheese plate.

Here is an easy, adaptable recipe for homemade Boursin cheese. It's a great way to use up the herbs in your garden, but dried herbs from the pantry work well too. Use what you like, or what you have on hand. Its fun to experiment with different herb combinations. Enjoy it with crackers, spread on a wrap in place of mayo, or stuffed between the skin and meat of a chicken breast before roasting.  Here's to the 70's!!

Homemade Boursin Cheese (herbs and amounts are merely suggestions)

2 garlic cloves, minced

8 oz butter (1 stick), at room temperature
16 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 t  fresh basil, chopped; or 1/2 t dried basil
1/2 t chives, chopped
1 t fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 t dried
1/2 t chopped sage, or 1/4 t dried sage
1/2 t chopped rosemary leaves, or 1/4 t dried rosemary
2 T minced fresh parsley

Combine cream cheese and butter with a fork, Add garlic and thoroughly combine.

Add herbs with a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. Taste. Add more herbs to taste.

Store in fridge for 1-2 weeks, or freeze.

I put mine in small containers, perfect for moving from fridge to table.

Bring on the Wheat Thins!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How to: Separate An Egg

Just got this video from a friend.  A unique way to separate an egg, and a chance to recycle a plastic bottle!! A win-win....

Monday, September 10, 2012

Shoo Flies

Unfortunately this post is not about Shoo Fly Pies, that delicious Amish treat. No, it is about the current bane of my existence: Fruit Flies. Both my onboard and onshore galleys have had fruit fly infestations this year. We've all dealt with fruit flies before -- typically I just clear the counters of all fresh produce (it pains me to put tomatoes and bananas in the fridge, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do) and, a few days later, no fruit flies.

This year though, the flies seem to have become more tenacious. My first infestation while we were onboard, sent me to the Google where I found a number of helpful suggestions, most employing vinegar, dish soap, a small dish and patience. The first three are easy, the fourth, not so much. But. if you follow these instructions and give it a few days you can wave those flies goodbye:

Shoo Fly Trap

1) Fill a small saucer or cup with red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
2) Add a drop of dish washing soap
3) If desired, add a small piece of ripe fruit (strawberries and banana peels work well)
4) Set dish on kitchen counter and let it be. The flies will hover around the edge, and eventually take the plunge.  The dish soap gives the solution some weight and speeds the drowning process. Be patient, this could take 3-4 days to get rid of all the flies.

Two options -
1) A small cup:

A saucer:
You can see more action in the saucer photo, where I was using apple cider vinegar, but I have found that the cup with red wine vinegar is more efficient. Look very closely at that photo and you will see the flies on the bottom. Gross, I know. But flies on your food is worse.

Full disclosure:

I empty and refill the dish every day or two.
The flies also seem to be drawn to wine -- red in particular. Personally, I don't want to use perfectly good wine on the fruit flies, but the last drop in the bottle can always be added to the vinegar.
Be sure to remove all baskets and paper products from the area -- the flies seem to be drawn to fibers.
Empty your trash and recycling often while doing this.
Keep your garbage disposal and drain clean. Make a volcano in your drain with baking soda and vinegar, then rinse thoroughly.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bacon Jam

Pop Quiz:

Q:When carnivores go vegetarian, what do they miss most?

A: Bacon.

Seriously, who can resist that aroma??  Not me. And although I don't eat it as much as I might like, and when I do it is usually made of Turkey, I LOVE BACON!

Sooooo, when I saw a link to Bacon Jam, I swooned.

Typically when you think of Bacon and/or Jam you think of breakfast. At least I did!

I mixed up a batch of Bacon Jam last night and went to sleep dreaming of toast and bacon jam and  maybe a dab on my eggs. And yes, it was delicious (I did have one inner debate: Do you butter the toast before smearing on the jam or is that gilding the lily? I tried it both ways and the jury is still out.)

The sliced tomatoes and avocado on the side brought a little color to the plate and were perfect with the jam.  The smooth avocado was the perfect foil to the smoky-sweet, textured, chewy jam. All in all, though, I am thinking Bacon Jam might be better suited to lunch, dinner or the cocktail hour.

Ohhh, the possibilities: Slathered on chicken breasts or salmon fillets, just before you take them off the grill. Dolloped on crackers topped with Brie or Smoked Gouda. A BJLT  sandwich anyone? Smeared on corn on the cob. Maybe with a roast beef and provolone on rye sandwich. Yum , Diddy, Yum Yum!

Make some of your own, and let me know how you serve it....

Here's the recipe:

Maple Bourbon Bacon Jam

1 lb thick bacon
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 C apple cider vinegar
3/4 C strong coffee
1/4 C light brown sugar
1/4 C maple syrup
1/4 C bourbon (see note below)
2 chipotle chilis in adobo, chopped
1/2 t cumin
pepper, to taste

Cook the bacon in a sauce pan over medium heat until bacon just starts to get crispy. Remove bacon and drain on towels.
Once cooled, chopped bacon into 1" pieces.
Remove all but 1 T of bacon fat from pan.
Saute onions in pan until tender, then add garlic and saute until fragrant (do not allow to brown)
Deglaze the pan with vinegar, being sure to scrape up all the flavorful bacon bits on the bottom!
Add remaining ingredients, including the reserved bacon,  reduce the heat to low and cook for 1-2 hours until the liquid is syrupy, stirring from time to time.
Let jam cool a bit, then place in food processor. Pulse until ingredients are chopped but not pureed.
You can store it in your fridge for up to a month. But, seriously, it will never last that long
Makes about 1 1/2 - 2 C.

Full disclosure/Recipe Alterations

I used regular sliced bacon -- no problem.
I measured the vinegar and bourbon together ( always read the recipe twice before proceeding!), so I deglazed the pan with both -- no problem.
I did not have a large onion, so I used 2 small ones.
You can chop the bacon before you cook it, but I don't like how the pieces all stick together when I do that, so I prefer to cook them whole -- or depending on the size of your pan, cut in half.

The Jam has a bit of a kick. If you don't like spicy, either eliminate the chilis or use just one. OR: if you don't want to open a whole can of chilis, just add a shake of red pepper flakes.
No bourbon? It's worth buying the smallest bottle you can find (or borrowing a 1/4 C from your neighbor)because it does add to the flavor profile of the Jam.
Not a drinker? No problem - substitute with apple juice. (I know, "they" say the alcohol will burn off in the cooking process, but I don't agree. Even if it does, the flavor remains and that can be a problem.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Baked Beans (from Scratch)

I love baked beans. I know not everyone does, but I do. Although I am convinced that if everyone could have them from scratch, they would love them too. Sorry, Bush family and your cute, talking dog, and the Heinz people and anyone else who makes canned baked beans, but they just do not cut it for me. Too soft, too sweet.
Then there are the people who say the best "homemade baked beans" start out from a can of baked beans Huh??

 I made these beans for the Fourth of July. We had a big crowd, but I still thought I would be bringing home a big bowl for lunch the next day. Nope, didn't happen. I had maybe a scoop left -- just enough to put on on corn tortilla and call it breakfast.

So, here you go, breakfast, lunch or dinner -- an American Classic.....(from scratch)

Real (Good) Baked Beans

(Before they were cooked)

1 1/2 C dried Pinto Beans
1 1/2 C dried Kidney Beans
1 1/2 C dried Great Northern Beans
14 C Water

1 large Onion, chopped
1/2 pound Bacon, chopped

1 1/2 C Catsup
1 C brown Sugar, packed
3 C Water
3 t dry mustard
1 T liquid smoke (or to taste)
1 1/2 t salt
3 coves garlic, minced

Pick over and wash beans. Rinse, drain. Combine beans and 14 C water in large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand one hour. Drain and return beans to Dutch Oven. 
OR, soak Beans overnight in water, drain and rinse. Return to Dutch oven.

Place bacon pieces and onion in heated saute pan. Cook over medium-high heat until onion is lightly browned and bacon is cooked. Add to beans

Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and bake at 300 for three hours. Remove lid and cook for 30 minutes or until beans are tender.

Alternate cooking method:
Place rinsed beans, sauteed bacon and onion, and remaining ingredients in crock pot. Cook for 10-12 hours on low or 6-7 hours on high. Times are approximates. Cook until beans are tender to your liking.

Eliminate the bacon for a Vegetarian Side or Main Dish.

or Add ground beef for a hearty meal served with greens and/or corn bread

Happy Birthday to Me!

It happens every year about this time -- my birthday rolls around. As Trace Adkins sang "I'm just proud to be here on the right side of the dirt." With that in mind,  birthdays are for celebrating, and to me that means cake. Tiring of the family favorites, Angel Food Cake with Chocolate Whipped Cream frosting and the All American Chocolate Cake from Costco, last year I decided to bake my own. It was a Chocolate Cake with Mexican Hot Chocolate Frosting. Spicy, smooth, and a big hit with the family.

So, the hunt was on for the perfect 2012 cake.  About a month ago, The Italian Dish blogged about her new favorite way to make cake:  a triple layered rectangle. Then last week, I happened over to Bird on Cake and  my eyes fell on her Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cake (say that 5 times!!). An idea was hatched -- why not make a Chocolate Cake Loaf with a Cheesecake Center, topped with chocolate buttercream and ganache? (Yes, I like chocolate)

With a tip of the spatula to the Italian Dish and Bird on Cake for inspiration and my adaptation, I present:

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cake  (serves 8)

Chocolate Cake:

1/2 C Boiling water
1 C Sugar
1 C All Purpose Flour
1/4 C plus 2 T Cocoa Pwdr (Dutch Process is best)
1/2 t Baking Pwdr
1 t Baking Soda
1/2 t Salt
1 Egg
1/2 C Buttermilk (or 1/2 T vinegar mixed into 1/2 C milk & let stand for 5 minu)
1/4 cup vegetable or coconut Oil
1/2 t Vanilla


8 oz. Cream Cheese, softened, at room temperature
1/4 C Sugar
1 Egg, at room temperature
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 C mini semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

Chocolate Buttercream

1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 C Confectioners Sugar, sifted
1 oz Unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1/2 t vanilla
1/3 cup milk


1/2 C semi-sweet chips
1/2 C Heavy Cream
1/2  t vanilla or coffee-flavored extract

How To:

Chocolate Cake:

Heat oven to 350. Grease an 8x4 loaf pan (line with parchment if desired).

Bring water to a boil, keep warm.
In a large bowl, sift flour, cocoa, baking pwdr., baking soda and salt.
Beat oil and sugar, then add egg and buttermilk until thoroughly mixed - using a hand or stand mixer.
At medium speed, add flour mixture gradually until fully incorporated
Add boiling water, carefully combining until fully mixed. Beat for 1 1/2 minutes.
Pour batter into pan. bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Set aside to cool, removing from baking pan after about 10 minutes.


Heat oven to 450. Line an 8/4 loaf pan with greased parchment paper.

Beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. By hand, add egg, then vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips. Pur into prepared pan

Bake for 8 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 250 and bake for another 20 minutes, or until it is just past the jiggly stage -- firm but not overly cracked!
Cool in the pan, on the counter then in the fridge.

While the cakes are cooling, make the Buttercream:


With a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. 
Add melted chocolate and vanilla, mixing well.
Slowly add the milk until you reach the desired consistency. You might not need all the milk -- or you might need more!
Set aside (or refrigerate if you will not be frosting the cake soon)

Ganache: (truly the icing on the cake

Place chips in a metal or glass bowl. Heat cream until it just begins to boil. Pour cream over the chips and let it sit. After 1-2 minutes, whisk together the cream, chocolate and vanilla/coffee extract until the chips are melted and the ganache is smooth and shiny.

Putting it Together:

Slice the Chocolate cake lengthwise, and level the top.
Place the bottom layer over the cheesecake in the pan (bottom up) Press down gently.
Carefully turn the cake/cheesecake onto a serving platter.  Peel the parchment off the cheesecake and place the top layer of cake over the cheesecake.
As my daughter said, it now looks like a big ice cream sandwich:

Okay, I might have overcooked the cheesecake, but it was actually quite smooth and tasty. I also did not level my the top which caused a bit of a problem when it came time to spread the ganache. Do as I suggest, not as I did : level the top.

Frost with the Buttercream and press about 1 cup of mini chocolate chips up the sides of the cake. Place in fridge for at least 30 minutes.  Then spread ganache over the top of the cake, allowing some to drizzle on the sides and pool on platter.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Salt Roasted Fish

I learned to make a variation of this in a cooking class earlier this year. My first thought was, "Fish, cooked in salt? It'll be dry. Won't the salt pull the moisture out?"
Wrong again -- it was moist and delicious, without a hint of saltiness. And the relish on the side? Fabulous!

This is a great dish to serve for company. Always brings Oohs and Aahs! (not to mention Yums!)

Salt-Crusted Fish with Fennel and Green Olive Relish (adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine and Sur La Table Cooking School)

Preheat oven to 400F, rack in middle of oven.

1 whole 2 1/2 - 3 lb Snapper or Salmon, scaled and cleaned
Aromatics for the cavity: fennel fronds, thin shallot slices, thin citrus slices
2 tsp. olive oil
6 cups Kosher Salt
4 large Egg Whites
Fennel, Green Olive, Mint Relish

Rinse fish inside and out. Pat dry. Rub skin with love oil. Season cavity with salt and pepper, stuff with aromatics.
Meanwhile, combine salt and egg whites
Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stand fish up on baking sheet, as if it were swimming.
Using your hands, cover with salt/egg white mixture, leaving head and tail exposed. (If this is difficult, lay fish down and cover with salt like this:

See that bit of liquid beneath the fish head?  One recipe I saw suggested adding 1/4 cup water to salt/egg white mix. Don't do it.
And, so everything you can to stand the fish up when cooking.

Roast about 35 minutes, or until a thermometer registers between 135 and 140. Let the fish rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Knock off crust with the back of a large metal spoon. Use a pastry brush to remove any salt clinging to crust. Scrape the skin off  the top of the filet,. One the top filet is removed, lift the tail bone and pull to expose lower filet. Set aside aromatics from cavity, and use a spoon to lift filet from skin.

Sere with Fennel, Olive and Mint Relish* and a loaf of Crusty Bread.

*Fennel, Green Olive and Mint Relish

1 Medium Fennel Bulb, (about 3/4lb), tough outer layers removed, cut into 1/8" dice/1-1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 Tbs. small capers, rinsed and chopped
Kosher salt and ground pepper
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint

In a large bowl, toss fennel, olives, onion, caper and 3/4 tsp each salt and pepper. Let sit 10-15 minutes until fennel starts to soften. Stir in oil, vinegar, mint, and season taste with more salt and pepper.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pot Luck Kale Salad

It used to be way back in the 50's, 60's and early 70's that you were invited to dinner party and all you had to think about was arriving on time, or at least tastefully tardy. Then the late 70's and early 80's hit. Baby boomers were hosting dinner parties, the job market was poor, and guests were asked (expected) to bring a dish. The up-front hostess called it a pot luck, the rest (the majority) simply gave everyone an assignment and set the table.

I was okay with that for a while. There was always a recipe I wanted to try out or show off. But, as the years have progressed I have become a bit more territorial over my menus. I want everything to flow, from appetizer to dessert, carrying an ethnic theme or flavor palate across the meal. If a guest of mine asks what to bring, I say "yourself and some table talk."

Oh yes, there are still times when the pot luck is best : the neighborhood party, the book group gathering, or the 20 something gathering.  If you are invited to any of these, here is a flavorful addition to the table (or your dinner table at home):

Kale Salad with PineNuts, Craisins and Cheese (6-8 side servings)

2 T craisins
7 T White Balsamic Vinegar, divided
1T unseasoned rice vinegar
1T honey
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1t sea salt
1 lb Kale, center ribs and stems removed, leave slices crosswise (Tuscan Kale is best)
2 T pine nuts, lightly toasted
Parmesan Cheese Shavings or 1/2 cup crumbled Ricotta Salata

Soak craisins in 5 T white balsamic vinegar for 6-8 hours. Drain

Whisk 2 T white balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, honey, oil and salt in small bowl.
Place Kale, Craisins, and Pine Nuts in large bowl.
Add 1/2 dressing, massage salad (with your hands or a tongs) every 5 minutes for 20 minutes.*

Add more dressing and salt and pepper to taste.
Add cheese just before serving.

*Massage is essential to a tender salad

Monday, April 30, 2012

Radishes, Snap Peas and Mint -- Spring in a Bowl

Radishes are all the rage.  Have you noticed?  As the Farmer's Markets begin to open here in the North East, you are sure to see them in their array of colors: red, pink, purple, white and even green and black. A member of the Brasscicaceae family (along with cabbage, broccoli, and mustard) the radish has a rapid germination period -- going from seed to plant in 3 days. Talk about an over-achiever!

The following recipe highlights two of my favorite vegetables: radish and snap pea, with a dollop of cheese*, and a citrus dressing. A colorful homage to spring......

Radish, Snap Pea and Mint Salad (adapted from the NYT, 6/12/2009)

3/4 cup sliced radishes (about 4)
1 1/4 cups sliced Snap Peas (slice on the diagonal in half or thirds)
1 cup Ricotta Salata, crumbled or 4 ounces 'wet' Ricotta
1/3 Cup torn mint leaves

1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of Kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon White Balsamic Vinegar (dark balsamic is okay too)
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine Rashes, Peas, Mint and Ricotta in salad bowl.

Make a paste with the garlic and salt, using a mortar and pestle, a molcajete, or the back of a spoon. In a small bowl combine the paste, juice, and vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and pepper, to taste.
Pour 1/2 of dressing over salad, season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining dressing depending on how wet you like your salads to be.

*I mistakenly purchased 'wet' Ricotta at the store -- the type typically used in pasta dishes. So, that is what is pictured above. Ricotta Salata is a hard, white cheese with a nutty, salty flavor. It is up to you which one to choose! I think you might want to use all of the dressing if you select Ricotta Salata, but I would still add it gradually.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tostadas -- adding crunch to lunch!

Mexican Tostada

I recently felt the need to break out of our salad or wrap or sandwich or soup lunch rut and try something new. Wandering down the ethnic food aisle at WalMart I saw a woman nudging her husband to reach up on the top shelf for a package of Tostadas -- crisp corn tortilla rounds. Once they moved away I stood on my tippy toes and snatched my own.

What a revelation!  Oh, I've had tostadas before --my first way back in the early '70's while visiting Mexico. On a road trip with my host family we pulled into a dusty gas station and everyone headed for the cashier. There on the counter was a tray of tostadas. I don't remember the ingredients, but I do remember the mix of flavors and the crispiness of the shell. Even though I have enjoyed them in restaurants ever since, I have never made them for myself or my family.  Boy have we been missing out. The tostadas have proven to be the perfect vehicle for serving leftovers in a new fashion, adding some crunch to lunch!

Here are some of the ways we have enjoyed them:

Traditional: A smear of warm refried beans, a layer of shredded chicken, chopped tomatoes and green onions,  salsa, shredded cheese, shredded cabbage

Middle Eastern:Warmed cooked  lentils, sliced or shredded chicken, crumbled feta, tomatoes, onions, chopped kalamata olives, shredded lettuce

Pescetarian: Thin layer of Artichoke-Parmesan dip, canned salmon (or tuna), chopped tomatoes and green onions, shredded lettuce or cabbage

BBQ: Thin layer of BBQ sauce, pork (sliced or shredded), sliced onion, shredded cheddar, coleslaw (dressed or undressed)

Spicy Vegetarian: Smear of Jalapeno Greek Yogurt Dip (from Costco), assorted chopped vegies, crumbled feta, shredded lettuce

The possibilities are endless. All you need is something "wet" to act like glue on the bottom and then start the layering. A delicious and different way to use leftovers, an easy way to get your vegies,  -- and a fun interactive meal, be it lunch or dinner . Just line up what you've got in the fridge and let the family do it themselves.

Farmer's Market Short Ribs

Where ever I am, if there is a Farmer's Market I go. Not only do I love the fresh produce, pasture raised meats, unique cheeses and specialty products available, but I believe you can learn a lot about a community at the market. The ethnic diversity and cultural heritage of an area is evident not only in the prepared foods available, but in the faces of the farmer's and other merchants. Spice mixes, baked goods and other treats often compliment local cooking trends and styles.

 While at the Stuart, FL Green Market last week we met Steven and Maya of the Florida Sunshine Company, and left their stand with a handsome package of bone-in short ribs (in my opinion the only way to buy and cook them -- there is so much flavor in the bones) After reading some Short Rib recipes on line, and taking into consideration what I had and did not have in the fridge and pantry, plus the array of vegetables I had picked up at the green market, I put together the following recipe. I served the ribs with market fresh Brussels Sprouts halved and sautéed in a dab of bacon fat and a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the juices.

 By the way, you could taste the grass in the ribs. Delicious. I may never eat non-grass fed and non grass-finished beef again.*

 Farmer's Market Short Ribs (serves 4) 

 3 lbs bone-in beef short ribs
 1 T sea salt ( use a flavored salt, like roasted garlic, if you wish)
 2  t freshly cracked pepper
 1 T dried thyme
 2  t dried rosemary
 4 T coconut oil ( or olive oil, to preference)
 6 carrots, cut into 2" sticks
 1 large white onion, or 2 large spring onions as shown above
 3 cups grape tomatoes
 2 cups red wine
 4 cups beef broth

 Combine herbs and seasonings, rub on all sides of ribs. Let stand 30 minutes.

 Heat oil over medium-high heat in Dutch oven or other oven safe pan .

Add ribs and cook until all sides are browned. About 8 minutes. Remove to plate, set aside.

 Add carrots and onion to pan, cook until browned.
Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from pan and set vegetables aside.

 Keeping heat at medium-high, add wine to pan and scrape to get up all the flavorable bits on bottom.

Return veggies to pan, and cook at low boil until wine is reduced by half.

 Add broth, tomatoes and ribs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook ribs, covered, on stovetop for 2 1/2 hours, never letting liquid return to a boil,

This is what mine looked like before I put them in the oven (I was only cooking for 2 here)

or - Cover pan and place in oven. Cook at 325 for 2 1/2 hours. Check periodically, and add more broth if needed. Rib meat will be falling off the bone and fork tender when fully cooked., the tomatoes and other vegies will be soft and slightly roasted.


*Steven told me to look for beef that is grass-finished as well as grass fed, otherwise the cattle may be pasture fed early on and then returned to the barn where they are "finished" with grain feed until they are ready for market, erasing all the benefits of those early months in the pasture.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Florida Fish Dip

The menu of just about every restaurant we have visited in Florida features their own version of Fish Dip. It was love at first taste: Smoked fish mixed with cream cheese and mayo or sour cream then seasoned with a spicy kick and a sprinkle of lime juice. The fish might be Amberjack, mullet, marlin, kingfish, or whitefish. It is often served with Cuban Crackers -- a hefty, somewhat bland cracker that provides the perfect vehicle to move the dip from dish to mouth. It is said that south Florida used to be thick with sheds where fishermen smoked their catch and sold dip. I just saw one yesterday as we rode the trolley to the beach. So, here it is, a taste of Florida no matter where you live.... Florida Fish Dip 1/2 lb Smoked Fish (whatever you can find), chopped 4 ounces cream cheese (regular or neufchatel), softened 2 TBSP mayo or sour cream Old Bay Seasoning,to taste, up to 1 TBL 1/2 Lime, juiced (slice remaining half into wedges) Combine all ingredients -- use food processor or hand mixer. You want a smooth, almost whipped, consistency. Serve with crackers, Cuban or saltines. Squeeze reserved lime wedges over top, to taste. A Dark 'n Stormy goes well too!